meet the makers | Feb 22, 2024 |
This artist crafts characterful home furnishings from offcuts
This artist crafts characterful home furnishings from offcuts
Fitzhugh KarolAmanda Villarosa

Fitzhugh Karol has always been in awe of the natural world. Growing up in Orford, New Hampshire, he spent his childhood exploring the rugged peaks and rocky hiking trails of the White Mountains—an experience that greatly impacts his furniture designs today. “My memories of nature, and the idea of joyful exploration, inspires the form and materiality of my work,” the artist tells Business of Home.

As an undergrad, Karol studied pottery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, and he went on to apprentice for legendary ceramist Toshiko Takaezu before enrolling in the master’s program in ceramics at the Rhode Island School of Design. “That brought an eagerness and curiosity to strengthen my skills and learn how to work effectively with mediums other than clay—like wood, metals and paper,” he says.

After graduating from RISD in 2007, he and his wife, interior designer Lyndsay Caleo Karol, moved to Brooklyn and encountered a practical necessity that wound up changing the course of his career. “We really needed furniture for our new home,” he says. “I already had a shop set up for my sculptural work on the bottom floor of our house, so I started collecting scrap wood and building furnishings.”

This artist crafts characterful home furnishings from offcuts
Carved white oak four-poster bed by Fitzhugh KarolMatthew Williams

Around this time, he began designing and crafting his first-ever major public sculpture: What’s Progression, a massive, interactive wooden piece for Socrates Sculpture Park inspired by the surrounding urban Queens landscape. “To this day, furniture continues to be an outgrowth of my sculptural practice,” he explains. “Almost every furniture piece I make comes from materials I didn’t end up using for a sculpture or that I repurpose from that practice.”

Whether it’s a large-scale installation or a lone chest of drawers, Karol designs all of his work with the natural environment in mind. “There’s a vernacular of shapes that I tend to rally around in my sculpture and furniture work, including stairlike shapes, sawtooth lines and silhouettes inspired by memories and observations in nature,” he says.

This artist crafts characterful home furnishings from offcuts
The Sawtooth console Matthew Williams

Though form reigns supreme, materiality plays a pivotal supporting role in the artist’s work. Not only are the bulk of his creations composed of natural materials like wood and clay, but he also regularly repurposes his offcuts into functional home designs. “So much of my work is also a result of what’s available to me, whether that be fallen trees, scrap wood or metal that comes off of other projects,” he says. “Even in my ceramic work, I keep the leftover scraps of clay wet so I can use them in the following weeks to make smaller objects.”

More recently, he has begun experimenting with a new recyclable raw material: cardboard. “I’m frequently combining paper parts to conceptualize my steelwork, so a friend suggested I make those models bigger and construct the metal sculptures in cardboard,” he says. “This became the series that I presented at Art on Paper [in September 2023], which can easily be taken apart and put back together like a puzzle.”

Karol currently serves as the artist-in-residence at The Brooklyn Home Company—an architectural design and real estate firm he co-founded with Lyndsay and her brother, real estate developer Bill Caleo—where he constructs bespoke pieces for residential spaces in an effort to bring traditional handicrafts into modern homes. “I’m just going to keep following the juice, as I like to say,” he says. “I’ll consider my studio and career a success if I continue to chase good energy and opportunities.”

If you want to learn more about Fitzhugh Karol, visit his website or Instagram.

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